The new Metro school board held its first meeting Tuesday, but members quickly broke into a closed executive session for a legal briefing on the district’s issue of the day: Great Hearts Academies.
Lacking a school board chair following elections in August, Metro Department of Law Director Saul Solomon presided over a hastily scheduled meeting Tuesday afternoon on Great Hearts, the charter school proposal that the Metro board deferred voting on last month even though the state ordered its approval.
The proposal for the West Nashville charter school goes before the school board again on Sept. 11. The board voted 5-0, with two abstentions, Tuesday to hold the closed executive session to receive legal counsel in advance of next week’s deliberation.
Metro boards and commissions breaking into executive session to receive legal advice is commonplace and authorized by state law.
Solomon told school board members — four of whom were attending their first-ever meeting — that state law allows meetings “not in the public eye” if they involve “pending or the threat of litigation.”
In rejecting Great Hearts last month, the school board defied a state order. In doing so, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has said the local board broke state law.
“We feel very clearly that there has been litigation threat in this instance, either by the state or by Great Hearts,” Solomon said. “We feel fairly confident that we have met that test.”
Board member Anna Shepherd agreed, “It’s been stated that this is a matter that we’ve been threatened with a lawsuit.”
Solomon referenced a City Paper reporter who would have to leave if the board opted for an executive session.
New board members Elissa Kim and Will Pinkston abstained from voting on organizing an executive session.
After the vote passed, the school board left the public boardroom for an adjacent workroom.
“There’s a lot of rules for these kind of meetings — what we call executive sessions,” Solomon said. “Generally speaking, you cannot deliberate or talk among each other or between each other during executive session.”